Chef’s Table is back on Netflix with its seventh volume, BBQ, which dives deep into “the smoky, juicy world” of the long-standing culinary art. “BBQ is about community and bringing people together, and we felt that was an important theme to bring into the Chef's Table world,” creator David Gelb and executive producer Brian McGinn explain to ET. “Chef's Table: BBQ features a diverse assortment of perspectives and approaches to a fundamental style of cooking with fire and smoke that some say is as old as recorded history itself.”
And as with previous seasons, the culinary masters featured couldn't be more different. The new season chronicles the stories of four award-winning chefs and pitmasters, including 85-year-old Tootsie Tomanetz, Australian Lennox Hastie, Mayan descendant Rosalia Chay Chuc and James Beard-winning chef Rodney Scott, who was surprised to be included on the Emmy-nominated docuseries.
“I didn't realize that my life was very interesting,” the South Carolina native says. While each subject has their own emotional and inspiring journey, his is one of adversity and perseverance rich in tradition and history -- and incredibly powerful to watch.
Growing up in Hemingway, South Carolina, Scott learned how to cook a whole hog for his family’s small-town store before stepping out on his own to become a barbecue master and James Beard-winning chef and successful Charleston restaurant owner with a focus on preserving the rural tradition of whole-hog cookery. “This is my particular world that I grew up in,” he says about the barbecue business, which is as varied as it is often misunderstood.
But as Chef’s Table shows, his rise to the top didn’t come without a number of setbacks. Not long after he was featured in the New York Times and was on his way to becoming a local favorite, a fire nearly destroyed everything. “It was humbling to watch it all over again,” Scott says of revisiting his ups and downs in the episode. “And it is absolutely great to be on the other side of it mentally.”
While he admits some of those past moments haunt him at times, “we’re past it now,” Scott says. “The road seems quieter. Things seem brighter. The world just feels like it’s refreshed to me.”
Eventually he recovered and went on to open Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ in 2017, with an additional location in Birmingham, Alabama, and a new one slated for Atlanta, Georgia. There, Scott, along with his business partner, Nick Pihakis, are keeping the whole hog tradition alive and satisfying customers with everything from BBQ pit-cooks ribs to “Ella’s banana pudding,” an homage to Scott’s mother.
Ultimately, what makes Chef’s Table special, even seven volumes in, is that it’s not food porn -- even though watching this season in particular may elicit savory temptations. “I like to say that it’s ‘food romance,’” Gelb previously told ET about the docuseries, adding, “There’s emotional context between the chefs and the food, between the audience and the food.” And BBQ captures just that, from the very moment the meat is placed on the grill to the smoke-filled finish and all the hard work in between.
“It’s a huge effort to get started, to do it and to get it done. And you want to see that satisfaction in the end,” Scott says of the long hours spent -- sometimes all day and all night -- barbecuing a whole hog. “I’m waiting for that satisfaction of everybody else to find out, ‘Was my effort worth it?’”